Shor tTakes Trends, Views and Analysis
A.T. Kearney’s Changing of the Guard
After six years in charge, Johan Aurik reflects on the firm he’s handing off to Alex Liu
Consulting: Can you tell me about the
transition taking place right now as
Alex takes over?
Aurik: Transitioning is real experience,
I can tell you. You can actually feel
the weight coming off your shoulders
little by little. You feel it every day;
I can assure you. It’s beginning to
happen slowly and it’s kind of nice.
This summer I will take a sabbatical
to sort of exhale and reflect a bit
more, and it’s been a long time since
I’ve done that in any real way. I’ve
been in this firm for over 30 years, a
Partner for 20 and I was Managing
Partner for six years, serving two
consecutive terms. Before that I was
running EMEA, so for ten straight
years I’ve had a senior leadership
role in the firm. It’s time for a break.
Consulting: As you transition out of
that day-to-day leadership role, are
you satisfied with where the firm is?
Aurik: I am very happy where we are
as a firm right now. In 2012 when I
took over it was only six years after
the management buyout from EDS,
which was a near-death experience,
to be honest. No one was really sure
if it would work but it did and it was
the best decision we ever made. In
2012, I ran on a platform of we need
to invest more in the firm. We need
to make decisions and take a stand
and invest in areas we needed to be
better and we did that. I also said
the performance of the firm has to
dramatically improve, and we did
that. I’m proud of that. The ambition
was set to be a leader in our areas of
choice and to be among the Top 3
firms in the bigger markets. We did
that in the Middle East, for instance.
We were not in the Middle East at
all and now we’re a Top 3 firm there
with some 30 partners. The business
is changing and it’s not a matter of
holding on to your past. I knew we
needed to invent our future.
Consulting: What were the highlights
of your time leading the firm?
Aurik: Over the last six years, we
focused the business in two broad
areas: One was Operations, where
we’ve always been super strong. The
second one was Transformation in the
Digital Area, which is really booming.
The pivot wasn’t really that dramatic,
to be honest. Those areas now account
for 80 or 90 percent of our revenue.
We tripled investment in the firm and
we also tripled profitability, those
two went hand in hand. That wasn’t a
coincidence. I was just looking at the
number for this year and we’re going
to grow 15 percent globally this year
in a global market that is not growing
at 15 percent. Last year we grew
around 9 percent. Historically, we’ve
been growing at high single-digit
rates, except for 2008. But since the
management buyout of EDS, we’ve
more than doubled firm revenue to
more than $1.2 billion.
Consulting: How has A.T. Kearney
managed to achieve that growth?
Aurik: It helps that all biggest global
economies are doing very well.
China, Latin America and Africa are
still a little soft, but otherwise most
of the global economies are doing
well. Secondly, there’s a demand
for transformation in almost every
Earlier this year, Alex Liu was elected the ninth Managing Partner and Chairman of A. T. Kearney. On May 1, he officially took over for Johan Aurik, who had
served in that role for the last six years—two consecutive terms. Aurik joined A. T.
Kearney more than 30 years ago “before we even had computers,” he said. After
a well deserved sabbatical this summer, Aurik will assume his role as Partner and
Chairman Emeritas where he’ll continue to manage some of the firm’s biggest
client relationships but will “cherish the freedom” he has. Aurik sat down with
Consulting to discuss his career, his time as Managing Partner, lessons learned
form the EDS “debacle” and the current status of the firm he’s passing off to Liu.